Harold Mercer is a lifelong White Plains resident whose roots go back to the arrival of his grandfather in the 1890s. His grandfather was an English artist who settled on the east side of White Plains and helped start the Eastside Engine Company. His father, also named Harold Mercer, was the Westchester County Clerk and became the White Plains Civil Defense Director.
Mercer remembers attending RKO Keith's on Main Street to see vaudeville acts like Peg Leg Bates and the Three Stooges. He remembers driving his Model A Ford around White Plains during World War II, when recruiters came to the high school to entice students to enlist. Mercer played football for WPHS, graduated in 1944, and attended Colby College in Maine. After college he returned to White Plains and eventually opened an insurance business at 300 Hamilton Avenue.
He married Elizabeth Von Rein, whose family also had roots in White Plains. Franz Von Rein opened the Auditorium Market on Railroad Avenue (now Main Street) at the corner of Mamaroneck Avenue. The business continued until 1978, when the location at 253 Mamaroneck Avenue closed.
Mercer's oral history is filled with stories about White Plains many have probably never heard before. From playing drums in a dance band (how he met his wife) to serving as president of the Union Hook & Ladder Co., Mercer's life and work are intertwined with the history of White Plains in the 20th century.
This interview was conducted with the assistance of Kevin Doherty.